For much of the year, indigenous AFL star Adam Goodes has been in the public eye. But he hasn’t spoken to the media, even as he took time off after months of being booed by fans at AFL games, and subsequently decided to retire at the end of the year.

But he’s finally broken his silence, and to a most unexpected source. Goodes gave his first post-retirement interview to an indigenous reporter at Sydney University’s student newspaper Honi Soit.

The interview, released on Tuesday, and extracted in other publications since, was conducted by Georgia Mantle, a journalism student and the indigenous officer at the Sydney Uni Student Representative Council.

Honi Soit co-editor Dominic Ellis told Crikey the publication had been seeking an interview with Goodes, through his PR team, for months — well before the booing scandal and the player’s subsequent decision to retire from the AFL.

“We suggested that we had indigenous reporters interested in interviewing him, which was, I think, what made him so interested.”

“We then heard back from his team just after the AFL finals series and got in touch with Georgia, who was stoked and immediately started planning. Georgia and I then prepped a few questions, and here we are … The idea of having a grassroots indigenous activist interviewing Adam, someone who has been so involved in discussions of racism and recognition, was really amazing to us. Hence our persistence and, I think, the high quality end product.”

Goodes’ final answer to Mantle referred to his interest in seeing how she would write it up. “You’re the first person I’ve spoken to, not just since I retired, but since I had time off against the Adelaide Crows, so you’ve got a good opportunity to produce something really special here which I’m looking forward to seeing.” She decided to release it as a Q&A. Mantle wrote that she didn’t want to “editorialise” her conversation with Goodes through her own reflections, experiences or interpretations — hence the decision to include the conversation as it occurred.

In the interview, Goodes discusses when he first knew he would retire:

“I probably knew  about two months before the season finished …  I’m 35 years old, I played a couple of games in the reserves this year to get my fitness back, so I think there was a lot of factors. And obviously with all the booing and everything, that was another piece of the puzzle that made my decision quite easy.”

He also discussed why he gave no interviews to the media as the booing saga wore on:

“I just figured that, for me to get the best out of myself and do the right thing by myself, I really just needed to step away and find out what I really wanted to do and hopefully getting back to where my people’re from and getting out bush could really re-energise me and help heal those wounds. Yeah that’s what I did, I went out country and it was amazing. It was just great to be out there.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to come back. But you know I did. And I felt better when I did. I just needed that support and the love of everyone at my football club and my partner, my family — that made it a little bit easier to come back. Obviously the booing didn’t stop, but I was able to be a lot stronger mentally and physically to deal with that for the last couple of months, knowing that it was going to be my last couple of months.”

Goodes plans to take a few months off to travel with his girlfriend.

Peter Fray

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